The smallest portable speakers all have one problem: they don’t play very loud, and they have almost no bass. That’s why we usually recommend buying a bigger speaker than you might have intended.
But that’s not practical for everyone, at least not for those who want a speaker they can easily take on the road. Like this one.
Marshall’s tiniest portable speaker fits nicely in a jacket pocket and weighs so little it won’t weigh down your pocket or bag. That it also doesn’t sound as anemic as small speakers usually do is a welcome bonus.
The tiny Willen speaker measures just 10 x 10 cm and is 4 cm deep. Weighing in at just over 300 grams, it’s feathery compared to the likes of the JBL Charge 5. Still, Marshall has managed to fit in a battery that can play for up to 15 hours or a full three hours after 20 minutes of charging via the USB-C port.
The waterproof speaker is made of a sturdy material and has a silicone strap on the back that you can use to attach it to your bike handlebars or backpack.
Inside, it has a 5 cm full-range unit and two passive radiators, which should give the bass a little more heft than usual from a speaker as small as the Willen
There’s also an app for the speaker, and the features are familiar from our tests of Marshall’s wireless headphones and speakers. In the app, you can choose from three EQ settings: Marshall, which is classic Marshall sound; Press, which has extra focus on bass and treble; and Voice for podcasters, for example.
There are no other EQ adjustments, but you can use the app to link multiple speakers together, which can then play simultaneously if you want.
On top of the speaker is a small microphone for conversations. Should someone call while you’re enjoying the music, the Willen can act as a hands-free speaker.
A small joystick button on the front serves as volume control – swipe up or down – and pause button. Swipe right or left to change songs, and hold the joystick button to turn the speaker on or off. The battery level can be seen on the top of the speaker, where five red LEDs show how much power is left in the battery.
The three sound settings in the app are a bit odd, I think. The sound is definitely best with the Marshall setting. But if you want more bass and select Press in the app, the midrange almost disappears, and so does the vocal, which suddenly sounds too thin.
In that case, the vocals and guitar on Khalid’s “Bad Luck” simply sound too thin, and it’s not just the vocals but also the instruments that become a bit drowned out by the soundscape if you want more bass.
The best you can do is stick with the Marshall setting, and since there’s not much else sensible to use the app for, you might as well skip it altogether. Because the speaker does just fine without it.
You can help the bass a bit by turning the speaker down if you want a little fuller sound, but the little speaker actually has workable bass. At least considering the size. It doesn’t play as loud and cool as the JBL Charge 5, but the sound pressure from the tiny speaker is surprisingly good.
The soundstage is well focused and clear enough to enjoy jazz or classical as well, but if you fall for the temptation to turn the volume up to the bursting point, the clarity of the soundstage also bursts.
The Willen is at its best when it’s close to the listener, and it’s not the speaker we’d choose for a summer party. Here, the aforementioned Charge 5 or Marshall’s larger Acton II BT are better choices.
Marshall’s little Willen speaker is a compact travel companion, so small that taking it out is never a problem. As a speaker on the patio, in the park, on the boat or when travelling, it’s almost perfect. The battery lasts long enough, and it’s rugged and waterproof enough to withstand the elements.
The best thing about it, though, is that it actually plays better than you’d think. The sound pressure isn’t comparable to larger Bluetooth speakers, and you can tell there’s limited bass here. Something the app doesn’t manage to do anything sensible about, by the way. But the size and not least the price taken into account, we must admit that the Marshall Willen is a good buy.